The Readings for 7th Monday after Easter
- Acts 19:1-8
- Psalm 68 (Response: Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth.)
- Colossians 3:1 (Alleluia)
- John 16:29-33
I have overcome the world.John 16:33
JESUS SAYS HE HAS OVERCOME the world. Yet, this is before his Crucifixion, before the Agony in the Garden – just before the High Priestly prayer. How has he already overcome the world? What does this mean for us? John Chrysostom says these words were spoken for our comfort and out of love for us. So I think we see here a little Transfiguration as it were: which happened to tell the Disciples that Jesus went to his death not as someone taken by surprise, but voluntarily as God.
When I was younger I had the sigil “IX XC + NIKA” on my email signature file. A friend who was Greek (but her family had been protestant for at least four generations) said to me, “I hope you know that means ‘en totou'”. Jesus Christ Conquers all. In fact the Greek in John 16:33 uses a form of that verb, “Nika” with νενίκηκα nenikeka. Jesus says he has already conquered. But we know he’s about to go to a false arrest, a rigged trial, and a politically motivated murder. How has he conquered? How can we say he has done so in spite of all this?
Christians tend to hyper-focus on the crucifixion. They do this either by making it out to be more important or less than everything else. I had a friend say the Resurrection and Ascension were irrelevant to his salvation. A Catholic priest even agreed with him no matter what I said to the contrary. The Catechism says, though, it is the entire incarnation that is salvific. Everything about Jesus is salvation happening. Other folks try to coverup the scandal of the death of God on a cross. Look at the Ascension by Salvador Dali:
Notice anything missing? Those hands and feet look might solid, no? Where are the wounds?
Everything about Jesus is salvation happening. Or, really, none of it is.
It’s popular among those who want to inspire Antisemitism, and also with those who want to downplay this moment as a defeat, to say this was something of a nightmare for Jesus. Some go so far as to say the Apostles made up the stories that come after Good Friday out of sheer guilt for leaving Jesus alone at his arrest. No one goes to their death for a lie they made up out of guilt, though.
The disciples knew that Jesus had conquered. He told them so. They forgot for a day or two… but he reminded them.
The world is not the thing that can damage us as Children of God. Yes, it can hurt us. Yes, it can tempt us. Yes, it can even kill us.
But Jesus has conquered the world not by undoing it, not by overthrowing it, but by subverting it. As man he received the worst the world could throw at him: poverty, political oppression, religious persecution, social rejection, depression, torture, dejection, loneliness, and death. As God, though, he took all that in and turned them into pathways to God or, more correctly, one long pathway to God. As man he also took the best we had – familial love, friends, joy, study, teaching, humor, creativity, physical labor, and piety. He turned these, also, into one long pathway to God. As man, he took perfectly normal, everyday things like eating, sleeping, and going to the bathroom. He turned these into pathways to God.
This is how he has overcome the world: at one time it all just lead to death. Maybe a life well-lived, or well-partied, sure, but death.
Now – since God has done it – it all leads to life. God is at the root of everything if we can only see him: good, bad, normal, exceptional, God has overcome the world by going all the way down and coming back again. No matter how far we run, he’s gone further. That is the meaning of atonement. Or, to quote Corrie Ten Boom, “There is no pit so deep that he is not deeper still.” (It is often misquoted as “…God’s love is deeper” but it is himself that is there in the deepness.)
Jesus Christ Conquers.